Book Review of From the Longing Orchard by Jessica Jopp


Name of Book: From the Longing Orchard

Author: Jessica Jopp

ISBN: 978-1-59709-929-5

Publisher: Red Hen Press 

Type of book: LGBtQIA+, art, 1970s-1980s, closeted, art projects, broken marriage, fears, nature, family, relationships, love, crushes, hidden traumas 

Year it was published: 2023 


Eighteen-year-old Sonya Hudson has been gripped by phobia since she was thirteen. What would make navigating the world so difficult for this budding visual artist? When the story opens, she lives with her mother and her sister in a suburb in New York in the late 1970s. The narrative carries us back through her childhood, where she struggles with the family’s frequent moving and with her parents’ increasingly fraught marriage. Lingering at the periphery of her consciousness is the shadow of a damaged boy she knew when she was very young. Reverence for the natural world provides comfort, as does her fierce attachment to her sister and her parents’ poignant guidance. But it is the intimacy with another young woman that ultimately offers a path to healing. In language soaring with poetic incantation, From the Longing Orchard shows us the ways in which a young woman and those she loves all must contend with a longing of some kind and how they seek from each other, and sometimes find, the needed balm.


Main character is definitely Sonya Hudson, a young and artistic girl who loves drawing, marking territory of where she lived by burying a precious keepsake in the soil, and someone who is dedicated to her parents and younger sister as well as her numerous artistic projects and pursuits. Despite her parsing and pursuing various art projects, I am not sure if I can describe as self-analytical and it seems as if she is afraid of dealing with certain aspects of herself. Secondary characters would be her mom who is very accepting of her daughters' pursuits and often tries to comfort her daughter as best as she can. There is also Sonya's younger sister who is also supportive and she also plays a musical instrument. Sonya's father, despite the best attempts he makes at parenting, is best described as someone who didn't deal with his own traumas from childhood and who is also an artist who had guided the girls through their early projects. Other characters would include Odessa, a girl who's family from Ukraine and who was Sonya's friend and crush as well as, later on, Elinor who is also an artist and dedicated and loyal to Sonya. 


We are much more than what we think we are


Perhaps 95 percent of the story is told in third person narrative from Sonya's point of view, and it starts in media res, one can say, then goes back to when Sonya is a little girl living with her beloved parents and younger sister. However a few chapters are from a boy, Andy, who had mysteriously committed suicide when Sonya was a very young girl. The rest of the story moves in chronological order. The prose is best described as visual, poetic and incredibly beautiful. Reading it felt like an ideal and beautiful summer day without an end (at least to me.) And apparently in summer time, I love visual novels. 

Author Information:
(From goodreads)


I am very highly impressed by this novel in so many ways. One way I am impressed is the visual beauty that was stated and drawn through these pages as well as the focus on multiple relationships that Sonya has with her family and friends. The character of Sonya is very multi dimensional and being an LGBtQIA+ is only a small part of her identity. Quite often in novels that are geared towards women, romance is pretty much high in focus, which can be detrimental to showing other aspects of women's selves.  In this novel, the focus is on growing up, projects and maturity that Sonya experiences through her life. Its definitely fascinating to watch her childhood from '70s to 80s, especially how a lot of things were handled way back when. 

This was given for review 

5 out of 5
(0: Stay away unless a masochist 1: Good for insomnia 2: Horrible but readable; 3: Readable and quickly forgettable, 4: Good, enjoyable 5: Buy it, keep it and never let it go.)


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